Today we celebrate the humble beginnings of one of our culinary staples – the sandwich. Where would we be without the BLT, the Dagwood, the Hoagie, the Reuben or the infamous breakfast sandwich? Ok, maybe a little thinner, but definitely not as satisfied. The Fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu (1719-1792) was the man given credit for inventing the sandwich, even though the first sandwich probably originated a thousand years earlier. Montagu was First Lord of the Admiralty and an influential sponsor to Captain James Cook’s vast exploration efforts. In fact, Captain Cook named a series of small South Pacific islands after the Earl, calling them The Sandwich Islands. These islands are now known as Hawaii.
According to legend, John Montagu, was a gambling addict and introduced the concept of two slices of bread with a piece of salted meat in between them so that he could play through his card games. Supposedly Montagu did this frequently enough that the other men gambling with him began to order “the same as Sandwich!”
Soon after, the British began baking a fine white loaf in a tin which created uniformity and slices that could be evenly cut. The sandwich was introduced to America in 1840 by Englishwoman, Elizabeth Leslie who included a recipe for the still beloved ham sandwich in her cookbook, Directions for Cookery. By the 1900’s, pre-sliced bread became available and the sandwich increased in popularity. It became an easy, portable meal for workers and school children alike.
Especially fun is how some of our more popular sandwiches received their names. For instance, the dagwood took its name from the cartoon character in the comic strip Blondie. The taco is based on the Spanish word referring to a long narrow shape. The club sandwich was so named, because it was elegant and decadent enough to be served to the financially privileged at resorts and country clubs. Finally, America’s most popular sandwich, the hamburger, was believed to have been introduced at the world’s fair in St. Louis in 1904. Derived from the entrée Hamburger Steak, it was named after the German city of Hamburg.
With over 65 types of sandwiches to choose from, it is estimated that America consumes more than 300 million sandwiches a day – that’s a lot of folks saying “same as Sandwich!” To celebrate this great invention, try making a Super-Stuffed Monte-Cristo Sandwich, how about a California Grilled Veggie Sandwich, or if you’re a Pioneer Woman fan try the The Marlboro Man Sandwich. Or, if you’re feeling especially adventurous, create your own signature sandwich and take some time to enjoy it!